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Student media organizations facing budget cuts

February 11, 2015

Student media organizations at UW-River Falls will be facing significant budget cuts starting in the fall, and these cuts will affect the four main campus media organizations, which include: WRFW radio, the Student Voice, Prologue, and Focus On U.

The budget cuts will come as a result of the segregated fees for student media being lowered to $3 per semester, per student, instead of the current $4. These are fees that every student pays which go toward funding various on-campus events and groups, such as Textbook Services, the University Center, and Registered Student Organizations (RSOs).

The organization in charge of budgets for allocable fees is the Allocable Fee Appropriation Board (AFAB). AFAB deals with various issues on allocable fees, but the most prevalent fee for students is the organized activity fee. The organized activity fee is a fee that every student pays that helps go toward sports clubs, RSOs and student media.

Student Senators Matt Hobbs and Joseph Schmitt recommended to AFAB Chair Dylan Asp, that a committee be formed by student media to help express budget concerns. The Student Media Committee was then formed by having two members of each student media group and two at-large members, who would represent the entire student media.

The issue arose when Asp contacted the Student Media Committee, and told them that they were going to cut the proposed budget of $4 down to $1.50 per semester.

Asp has said that this amount was just filler, to discuss other possible amounts. Asp also said that another reason this issue arose came after he did some budgeting based on projected enrollment and the number of student organizations.

“AFAB’s biggest concern was including everyone, and so when we were looking at four organizations (student media), versus 75 organizations (RSOs), that’s when it came up as an inequality,” Asp said.

Asp then contacted the Student Media Committee and wanted to hear its side of the budget issue.

“We were given less than 24 hours to rally our arguments together,” said Student Media Committee member Ryan Tibbitts. “I sent out an email that night to all the student media leaders I could think of, including all the advisors of the four organizations, and said we need to get our stuff together here.”

The meeting with AFAB was then held on Thursday, Jan. 29, and after a long discussion they settled on $3.25 per semester, per student.

The proposal then went to Student Senate, where after more discussion the fee was lowered to $3 per semester. The proposal will now go to Chancellor Dean Van Galen.

If this motion were to pass it would leave the four student media organizations at bare-bones operating budgets. Tibbitts has said that one of the biggest concerns, at least for WRFW, is having a rainy-day fund. If something were to break, the station does not have the funds to replace or fix it.

The biggest concern, of the four media organizations, came from the Student Voice, as the 25 percent budget decrease could mean the end of the printed copy of the student-run newspaper that has been printing since 1916.

There were other options discussed to counteract this budget cut, the most obvious option was to increase the overall organized activity fee.

“We decided not to move forward with any proposal to increase any allocable fees, that’s in part because of the budget situation we find ourselves in now, and we are also concerned about keeping fees affordable to students,” said Student Senate President Anthony Sumnicht.

Tibbitts says that even though budget cuts are happening to student media, that he is very proud of how the committee and its supporters represented student media, and recognized how passionate the students involved are about the four organizations.